To my surprise Sycamore trees can grow quite big, well really I shouldn’t be surprised because Zacchaeus had climbed up in one.. Jesus goes to the tree and looking up at Zacchaeus invites himself to his place to dinner.. I wonder what that would feel like to want to see someone so much you would just climb up a tree and then to have that person announce they wanted to come to your place to dinner..The people around him were annoyed, “why should Jesus hang out with this crook” it says in the message.. Let’s be truthful they were jealous.. They were wishing why didn’t he want to come to my place for dinner? a number of the translations have an interesting response from Zacchaeus, some make it sound like just because Jesus choose him now he would do the right thing, but others actually talk in terms that he was already doing the right thing..
It is interesting what we see when we look at people.. How easily we can be corrupted by fear and gossip.. The assumption, due to his job was that he was automatically dodgy, but this was just the label that the community put on him not necesarily the reality of who he was. To see Zacchaeus, you had to look past the forest to see the trees, or in this drawing case past the tree to see the leaves and what was hiding in it..
This weekend it is coming up to Halloween, lots of kids in our neighbourhood get dressed up in scary clothes and knock on the neighbours doors.. It is the only time in our neighbourhood when you will find lots of our neighbours out and about walking the street. I live in a very multicultural suburb, there are Christians , Muslims, Sheiks, Buddhists and I am sure many more I do not know about.. We could look at the other and be scared of what we see and feel threatened, creating enclaves that only add to the fear and mistrust, or we can take off the masks we put on people and hand out some hospitality and discover people are usually an amazing example of humanity, well at least a lot more like us than we realised!!
Luke 18:9 – 14
It is interesting what comes our of the reading when I draw it.. I thought this picture was going to be very elaborate with lots of background but when it came down to it, it was all about the two men and light.. The first man was busy shining his own light. In the reading the parable was told because Jesus had a couple of people who were very pleased with their own moral standing and looked down at common people.. The pharisee was very proud that he paid his 10% and fasted twice a week.. Realistically I’m thinking it is not really that impressive, he was required by law to pay his 10% and I fast twice a week when I am so busy at work and I forget to eat lunch!
The assumption of the other is that they intentionally have set out to do the wrong thing.. Robbers, crooks, adulterers and “that” tax collector. I assume the Pharisee had enough money that he could fast twice a week as a choice.. I wonder if this also meant he could take as many wives as he wanted.. Now maybe I am making some assumptions about him, but he was obviously making assumptions about the others.It was easier to blame the tax collector for being dodgy rather than being angry at the system that left the tax collector in a difficult predicament and made the people feel like they are taking advantage of them..people needed to make a living somehow what happens to those who don’t have the family support, or where left as orphans, how do they make a living?
As human beings I think we often make assumptions about the other.. The stranger we do not know or understand.. sometimes our culture actually encourages us to be afraid of someone or something so we won’t look at the bigger picture and see the broader injustice , or see things from a new perspective and realise the other is actually just like us. Instead it encourages us to sit back and pat ourselves on the back about how good we are. But if we were put in their situation would we really do anything any different?
The tax collector was struggling with who he was and what was going on in his life and he was truthful and honest in his conversation with God. He was realistic to know he wasn’t perfect and it gave him room to learn and grow.. At the front of his picture we see a shadow which is often what we see when we see the stranger but the light source that casts that shadow is God.
This week we look at the story of the persistant widow. It is an encouragement from Jesus not to give up.. A short 7 verse story but interesting when you get into it.. The widow in that time was incredibly vulnerable, without a husband to “look after” her, she needed to rely on family and people who had a responsiblity but not necesarily a want to care for her.. It sounds like someone had done a dodgy on her and she required the help of a judge to fix the situation. This was her judge, who didn’t really care much for justice.. I wonder why he was a judge, did he inherit the role, was it expected from him? He didn’t really care for the womans situation but her persitance paid off. Everyday knocking on his door until he eventually gave up..
I was thinking about that door, the one that stops us hearing the story of injustice. I was thinking about how sometimes we can get compassion fatigue, overwhelmed by all the sufferring going on and feeling powerless to do anything about it.. For me sometimes there is also an issue of who can we trust, what information is actually acurate, can we trust what the media says to us.. You know there is always two sides to the story.. I wonder whether God has a moment of that. Before you all jump down my throat that God is all knowing, I was pondering how much there is to know I feel for God as we beg God from both sides that our football teams win.. Or that we do or don’t get the politician we want.. The judge is given a bad wrap but I don’t think that making justice happen is always easy and to try and make sense of it takes alot of work.
The one thing I noticed is that the judge did hear.. He didn’t want to hear or want to deal with it, but he did hear. If this judge hears and acts how much more will God.. Because God hears and God cares, God does not merely have a responsibilty to care but actually cares.. There is a great difference between the two. It is so fantastic for me to be loved in this way, but I know that to have this blessing is to want to share this blessing.
At times like this I often pray for the wisdom of Solomon, God help me to know what is true and what is not, help me to act justly and fairly, open my eyes to the widows plight. Guide my path in your ways.
It is interesting reflecting on the 10 lepers this week. I noticed for the first time we do not know whether they were women or men young or old or how long they had been lepers for.. I am assuming they are part of the religious community because they were comfortable to go to the temple to get the OK that they were able to return to the community..(Having a skin disease which leprosy is part of meant you were ex communicated from the community to stop the spread to others, people were placed outside the city and had to let people know they were unclean as they approached. To be permitted back into the community you needed the OK of the priests that you were healed.) We hear that only one returned to say thankyou, the odd one the one who didn’t worship like everyone else. To see God to experience God’s hand does not happen for him only at the temple so he could see God working through Jesus.
I wonder about the other 9 we often look at them with disdain, how ungrateful they were.. I wonder if they were ungrateful or if they were giving thanks the only way they knew how, to go to the temple as Jesus had told them to. That is the only place that they could worship God and give thanks. I wonder too what it would be like to have to give up your family and loved ones due to illness, to intentionally stay away from them out of love and how costly that is.. I wonder if that was what they were focused on as they raced towards the temple.. Did they even notice they were healed..
It got me thinking about where I and others connect with God. I was thinking about how focused we get on what is going on that sometimes we don’t even notice when things have changed, or we get caught up in the hope of what might be that we don’t notice when it has already happened.. In all of this I think God is gracious, God knows us and sees what is going on.. I feel God laughing “will you please take a look at your hand it’s all sorted”!
May this week, you find the healing and hope you require and find your ways to be grateful for what you do notice!